Daniel Craig’s Bond faces new iconic villain in ‘Skyfall’

by Nick Growall

Staff writer

In the 23rd installment of this franchise, the question is raised as to whether James Bond is still relevant in our modern world. After 50 years of martinis, girls and guns, reinvention is a small matter for a man who considers “resurrection” his hobby.

In “Skyfall,” Director Sam Medes reflects on Bond’s cinematic past, while giving the world’s most famous spy a fresh start in the 21st Century.

The film opens with Bond (Daniel Craig) shot and left for dead during a mission to recover a computer hard drive containing the identities of all undercover NATO agents. After several months “enjoying death,” he finds his secret service agency, MI6, under attack by viral terrorists.

After some globe-trotting investigation, Bond discovers the mastermind behind the attacks, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem, “No Country For Old Men”). A former MI6 agent who worked under Bond’s boss M (Judi Dench, “Shakespeare in Love”), Silva holds her responsible for his torture and imprisonment by the Chinese and seeks revenge on both her and the MI6 agency.

Daniel Craig suits up again for his third outing as Bond, once again bringing toughness and a cold exterior to the role. Other Bonds proved to be suave and quick-witted, but Craig adds a sense of authenticity to the character; while charming as the others, you actually believe he’s a trained assassin, capable of taking down any obstacle in his way.

And while this film harkens back to qualities seen in previous Bond films, we’re given the chance to delve deeper into Bond’s backstory. Director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) gives us an introspective look at the spy, something that Craig has already proven himself quite capable of in his first two films with the franchise.

The film also puts a lot of focus on M as she deals with the threat of retirement and her choices from the past coming back to haunt her. Dench gives a commanding performance as always, providing the perfect stance as the “mother” of both Bond and Silva.

But what also makes “Skyfall” unique from its other Craig-starring counterparts is the presence of Bardem’s iconic turn as Silva. Neither “Casino Royale” nor “Quantum of Solace” provided Bond with a villain who could stand toe-to-toe in both intelligence and ability.

Bardem brings a twisted, flamboyant flair to Silva, far removed from his stoic character from “No Country For Old Men” that won him an Oscar.

Bardem’s Silva isn’t a slithering, one-note villain either; we find Silva to be a tragic character, transformed both mentally and physically by events out of his control.

This creation of character formed by Mendes and his writers, complimented by Bardem’s performance, brings us an iconic Bond villain for the first time in what seems like forever.

Another notable performance goes to Ben Whishaw in the role of a younger, reinvented Q. Much like the film itself, Q represents a salute to Bond lore while moving the series into its modern setting.

Gone are the over-the-top gadgets, replaced with the more realistic toys of Whishaw’s computer whiz kid and his dry, confident youthful humor, which stands on its own next to Bond’s best quips.

Overall, what we’re given is a tribute to over 50 years of James Bond, in a way that feels fresh and not shoved down our throats.

Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins bring a sense of style and luxury that is expected in a Bond film, with exotic locations and adrenaline-filled action sequences, while slowing down to make room for character development and to also flesh out Bond’s backstory.

It has something for anyone and everyone who has enjoyed the franchise over the years, and proves that James Bond is just as relevant as always, to both the young and old.

November 15, 2012